Patent offices worldwide use the International Patent Classification (IPC). There are approximately 70 000 different IPC codes for different technical areas.
The Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) is an extension of the IPC and is jointly managed by the EPO and the US Patent and Trademark Office.
CPC includes an additional section Y related to general tagging of new technological developments, which is also sub-divided into classes, sub-classes, groups and sub-groups.
We've extracted the usage statistics of CPC/IPC. You can see that most patent offices use IPC and that CPC has a low usage by the Asian patent offices.
Codes that are assigned by patent officers to patents at the time of application, in order to classify them according to their technical content. Classification codes are hierarchically structured and have different levels of detail (section, mainclass, subclass, main group, full detail). This makes them a highly ordered and objective system for classifying patent content. Classification codes can refer to application domains (e.g., medicine, agriculture), to specific technologies (e.g , ultrasound), or even to specific chemistries (e.g., heterocyclic compounds).